Home News and Features VCFA Students Protest Move to Colorado

VCFA Students Protest Move to Colorado

Students recently plastered the VCFA College Green with signs protesting the college’s plans to move student residencies to Colorado. Photo by Cassandra Hemenway.
The Vermont College of Fine Arts is moving its summer residency programs to Colorado College, and current students aren’t happy about it. In what they called a collective action, visual arts students peppered the campus with protest signs last week and met with college administrators about their concerns. They also threatened to withhold tuition if their demands weren’t met.

In a July 1 letter to President Leslie Ward, Vice President David Markow, Chairman Goldstein, Vice-Chair Carvelli, and members of the Board of Trustees — and signed by 29 students — students expressed “dissatisfaction and profound disappointment” with the college’s recently announced decision to move student residencies out of state. The college plans to sell most campus buildings, and keep College Hall and the green.

One of the students’ primary complaints is that “This decision was reached without the input of all affected stakeholders, including the current student body,” they wrote. According to visual arts student Sabrina Resnick students would like concrete information about the college’s finances, and solutions for students for whom they say traveling to Colorado will create a financial hardship.

In an email to The Bridge, Ward said the college took steps to consider student perspectives from the beginning.

“The Academic Dean and the Vice President of Student Services were involved from the outset of the process in order to ensure that all interests were represented and that we had a vision that included increased scholarships, enhanced programs, and increased opportunities for artistic development,” Ward wrote.

Ward also noted that “Our students come from across the country and around the world and participate in six different MFA programs.”

Ward met with students in late July.

“At the end of the meeting the students requested, and I agreed, that I ask the board to provide them with an explanation as to why they believe in and support this new plan going forward and secondly, to offer a plan for how students and faculty will be involved in developing this plan into the future,” Ward said.

In a separate letter to the same group of administrators, students demanded the college create a plan for moving forward that includes students, staff, alumnx, and the Montpelier community; and that the plan be in place by July 28, 2022 by 12 p.m.

“If there is no response to this letter, we will pursue a tuition withholding action coordinated with the other programs.”

As of July 31, the Instagram account “vcfastudents” (where the letter is posted), stated that they had not received a reply to the demands, and “We are currently gathering contacts in the other programs to support a more unified response and start the tuition action.”

However, in her email to The Bridge, Ward said “As part of our plan to have residencies at Colorado College, we want students and faculty to be involved in the planning process process,” and she repeated, “including new opportunities for scholarships, enhanced programs, and increased opportunities for artistic development.”

A small group of alumnx have also been involved in seeking a pause on the college’s plans, and creating more conversations between stakeholders, including themselves meeting with the VCFA board of trustees, according to Resnick. 

In a letter to “VCFA Stakeholders” provided to The Bridge by Resnick, four alumnx asserted (emphasis in the original) “We are committed to offering long-term support to faculty and students, with whatever actions they feel are best, as they communicate with each other and develop their next steps. We have also been offered very significant funding by a generous alumnx, so we will have ongoing resources we need in order to sustain our efforts.”

Asked to comment on the disappointment students have been feeling about the move, Ward said “I think the students’ emotions speak to the outstanding education and artistic growth VCFA offers. As we firmly believe, and our faculty agree, the VCFA experience and value are created by community, not by buildings.”

Disclosure: The Bridge is a tenant of the VCFA in one of its campus buildings.